R Visa for Religious Workers

R non-immigrant visas are for religious workers. This does not cover everyone who works for a church. Rather, it is limited to ministers and persons working in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation. In other words, while a minister or music director would be an appropriate position for an R visa petition, a church secretary would not be.

The duration of stay in R-1 status is limited to 5 years, and spouses and children may accompany the religious worker.

In order to be eligible, the following requirements must be met:

  • For two years immediately preceding the application, the foreign national has been a member of the religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S.
  • A minister includes deacons, practitioners of Christian Science and officers of the Salvation Army.
  • A person working in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation:
    • A profession capacity is one that requires a bachelor’s degree as a minimum.
    • A religious occupation involves activity that relates to a traditional religious function, such as cantors, liturgical workers, and religious broadcasters. It does not include clerks, fundraisers or maintenance workers.
    • A religious vocation also relates to traditional religious functions such as nuns and monks.

USCIS makes a site visit to every church that petitions for an R-1 to be certain that the church is bona fide.